Friday, 18 June 2010

A small blogging revelation

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

The cross critics of blogging always slam it as a narcissistic exercise. The irony is that this cruel blast always comes from columnists. One could, if one was being very rigorous, argue that being paid to broadcast your opinions on any given subject, whether you are expert in it or not, is verging on the narcissistic. I could not possibly comment. Actually, I could.  I get huge pleasure from reading the columnists; I think they do me a great intellectual service by challenging my own ideas so they do not set into stone; but I would never say they are free of ego.

I think it is exactly the solipsistic nature of blogging that makes it so interesting. Of course I adore the objective, professional outfits like The Daily Dish and Michael White and John Rentoul and Michael Tomasky, and the other good political blogs, where I can go for argument and facts and an overview of what is happening in Iran or Beijing or Whitehall or Washington. But those I really take to my heart are the records of individual humans.

I like being given a glimpse into a way of living quite different from my own, in other countries and cultures; I like seeing other passions and other rooms. You could turn the whole argument on its heels and say that it is quite the opposite of narcissism; it is an act of generosity. (I have found that generosity, interestingly, is the absolute hallmark of everyone I have encountered since I started this blog.) I adore seeing the dogs and gardens and lunches and loved ones and frocks and fascinations of lives that, without this medium, would never have touched my own.

What I love about writing my own blog is the absolute freedom it brings. I do think about the writing; I try to give you light and shade; I am conscious that I should not bang on too much about one subject. I give thought to the look of the thing; hence the new camera. I try, not always successfully, to be diverting, because you are giving me the gift of your time. (I know I do not always succeed, and sometimes am so blank in the head after a day of writing that I must fall back on dog pictures, and do not think I take for granted your forbearance when that happens.) But essentially, I bash out whatever takes my fancy that day. I very rarely censor myself, and certainly never engineer something for a target audience. There is no target, because you appear to come from all nationalities, demographics and time zones. This is marvellously liberating: all I can do is give you the personal, and hope that a sliver of it might turn out to be universal, when the light is coming from the right direction.

So, this is an amateur effort, in the true sense that it comes from love. I also do a little paid blog, for a rather august publication. I had to send one off this morning, and you should have seen the metaphorical pencil sucking that went on. The moment I step into the real world, I am crashingly conscious that things are Expected. I am doing it for cash, so it must be utterly polished and professional. The publication in question does have a quite particular audience, so I find myself writing for them. Is this suitable? I think. Will this do? What on earth will they think of this nonsense? Will they find my slight flakiness and odd obsessions endearing, or blastingly dull?

As a result, the whole thing becomes stilted and slightly artificial. I keep thinking I must sit up straight; I am in polite society now. The irony is that the self-imposed pressure to do my best means that I often do my worst. Instead of just being myself, I am writing as if I am dressed up in my formal Sunday clothes. However hard I try to be natural, I cannot help adopting a persona.

Another irony: one of the things I always tell my writing students, in the annual workshop I do in my local arts festival, is write for yourself. The moment you are conscious of a market or an audience, you are lost. Readers are finely attuned; they will sense any hint of phoniness or striving for effect, and ruthlessly cast you aside.

Theory and practice, my darlings. Theory and practice.

It does make me realise how lucky I am to have this space, to be entirely free. It makes me realise how incredibly fortunate I am to have such kind and loyal readers, who take me just as I am. It also makes me think that perhaps blogging is the ideal tool for budding writers: it is the perfect place to practice your most authentic prose. This does not mean sloppy or slapdash or excessively self-regarding; it does mean that you get to be your true self, as long as the semi-colons are in the right place.


1661 words of book today, so as usual the brain is fracturing. Not sure if any of the above made that much sense, but I wanted to say it anyway. Sometimes I just have to sing a little hymn of gratitude to the lovely blogosphere.

Pictures from my walk yesterday evening, when the sun finally broke through the clouds:


A perfect field of daisies.


A perfect dog in a perfect field of daisies. (Her sister, as is tradition, was off digging for moles, and so cancelled her photo opportunity.)


These amazing drifts of wild flowers have sprung up all over the woods, almost overnight it seems.


Look at them. There were nothing like so many last year. Look how well the brave little chestnut tree is doing, too.


More drifts. Just in case you did not get the idea.


Lovely older niece, whom I do not think you have met before, with adorable dog.


Adorable dog is certainly ready for her close-up. I swear she actually poses the moment she sees a camera.


These beauties just grow wild on my wall.


This is the hydrangea whose name I cannot remember. Is it a bush hydrangea or a tree hydrangea? Anyway, it is about seven feet tall and is part of my elder and hawthorn hedge, and these are its first flowers this year.


Once I start getting arty with the garden gate, I know it really is time to stop. Also, I have to go and buy some beer for the England match, in my continuing pursuit of football clichés. I have crates of delicate Pinot Grigio, but I cannot bring myself to drink white wine whilst yelling at the referee for a bad offside decision. It just would not feel right.

Point of information for those of you who do not do football, and have never had the suffer the agonies of watching England play: it is physically and psychologically impossible to watch an England match without alcohol. The pain would be too great.

Really am stopping now.

Have a lovely Friday.


  1. Hear, hear.

    I went into complete paralysis when I discovered that people were actually reading my blog. I know it's contradictory, since blogging is not exactly a private activity, but I suddenly became terribly self conscious about what I imagined the *expectations* might be. Dropped on my head as an adult, you see. x

  2. Which publication do you blog for? I'd be interested to read it.

    I was on Diet Coke during the last game. Never again. I shall stock up on delicious English cider and enjoy myself tonight.

  3. Mrs T - I have missed you. So glad I am not the only irrational and self-contradictory one. Dropped on head as adult always makes me laugh.

    Alex - the new revamped Lady. Cider MUCH better than Diet Coke and so good for supporting lovely local businesses.

  4. Mental work apparently uses up lots of calories, so even though you're sitting down it's tiring. And it can be more fatiguing than some physical work as you're opening out your soul.

    Very uplifting blog. Love the photos of the dogs - they always make me smile.

  5. Oh, Vivien - thank you so much. Your comment has made me smile, when I really needed it after watching a disastrous England match in the World Cup. Especially pleased that you like the dog pictures.

  6. Thank you so much for this post. It made me smile so much.... but it is the photographs that have made my day. I love the green, the calm and the dogs. Football I know nothing about, we are a cricket mad nation. But, I am in Australia right now and they are soccer mad!!!

  7. Yes Yes Yes - exactly why I so love to read personal blogs. A generous glimpse into others' lives - their dogs, furniture, gardens, dinner and little doings is just what I love. I keep my blog for absent friends and family; when I read other blogs it (almost) feels like I am one of their absent friends.

  8. You will have needed a lot of alcohol for the last England game....
    What I love about blogs is that a link from one can send you off into entirely new blogging circles and out of your blogging comfort zone.

  9. I love my blog- I adore it when people write to me but it is also just for me- and I am constantly surprised by which posts people like- sometimes I will write something and think yeah that's great and it doesn't seem that important and other times people seem to love pieces I just wrote very quickly. Who knows.

    I couldn't agree more about beer and football, I wouldn't normally drink it but anything else seems wrong.

    I was away in the glorious Peak District this weekend so missed most of the Friday match due to bad train connections but had friends texting updates- it sounded utterly dismal- all we can hope for is a lion's roar on Wednesday. There is always the tennis to get lost in!


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